Friday, January 7, 2011

Pentagon faces $78 billion expenditure cut

The Pentagon will have to cut expenditure by $78 billion over the next five years, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Thursday, forcing the Army and the Marine Corps to get smaller the number of troops on active duty and finally imposing the first freeze on military spending since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The shock announcement from Gates was a reminder for the military establishment, which has benefited from a gusher of new money over the past decade that it will not remain excused from painful austerity measures.

In a news conference to proclaim what he described as efficiency measures, Gates said he hopes that "what had been a culture of endless money . . . will become a culture of savings and restraint" at the Defense Department. At a time of "extreme fiscal duress," he said, "every dollar spent on excess overhead or unneeded programs . . . is a dollar not obtainable to support our troops" or to deal with future threats.

"We must come to understand that not every defense program is necessary, not every defense dollar is sacred or well-spent, and more of everything is simply not sustainable," Gates said.

In response to questions, he highlighted that the $78-billion reduction over the next five years actually represents a "decline in the rate of growth," since the Pentagon budget will grow "in absolute dollars" every year. "The focus here is on a reduction in the rate of growth, as opposed to total cuts," he said.

Gates also harassed that, even after the reductions in troop strength, both the Army and the Marine Corps both will still be larger than they were when he became defense secretary four years ago. The Army will be bigger by about 40,000 soldiers, and the Marines will motionless have 7,000 to 12,000 more troops, he said.